Research falls prey to profit seekers

January 22, 1999

New technologies, new providers of higher education and fee-paying students all threaten to undermine research, according to a leading United States academic.

Robert Zemsky, director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, was today expected to tell the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Anaheim that funding for university research could drop dramatically as market forces take hold in higher education.

"Most of the people going into the distance-leaning market for profit are going into the subjects that higher education has treated as cash cows," says Professor Zemsky, pointing to areas such as in-service training, business and technology education. "Higher education has made substantial profits from these subjects and in traditional institutions a significant part is ploughed back into scholarly research. But these for-profit companies have no interest in scholarly research."

Professor Zemsky believes that the introduction of student fees could be a further threat to research funding. "In traditional universities, as the market takes hold, more and more people are going to insist the money they spend goes on them and not on research," he says.

He adds that the introduction of the Pounds 1,000 tuition fee in the UK means Britain is moving to market forces "much more rapidly" than in the US. "Once they start spending Pounds 1,000 a person, students are going to start saying 'that is my money and I want you to pay real attention to me'."

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